ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The North American Mission Board is looking for a few good men and women who are willing to be used by God to change communities. Or, to be more precise, about 60,000 communities.
In a new strategy aimed at starting new congregations throughout the United States and Canada, NAMB is seeking to enlist men and women from all walks of life, of all ages and all vocations and link them with church planting opportunities tailored to their giftedness.
Some of these opportunities exist right where you live — your workplace, your neighborhoods and within your sphere of influence and circle of relationships.
Other opportunities involve relocating to a new site. For instance, if a man or woman has always had a desire to live in Albuquerque or Omaha, there’s an excellent chance a location already has been targeted for a church start. The person can move to the area and hook up with a pastor or other person who is familiar with the needs of the community and help lay the foundation for a community of believers.
Russell Begaye, church planter enlistment manager for NAMB, remembers one such individual, a school principal, who resigned his position to accept a similar role on an Indian reservation in Montana. He soon became established in the community and was able to build bridges of trust with its residents. As teaching positions opened in his school, he hired believers who joined him in his quest.
In effect, he built his own team in an area where trained leadership was lacking.
“The man or woman in the pew has an unlimited number of opportunities to impact unchurched communities throughout North America, whether they choose a long-term or short-term assignment,” Begaye noted.
“We have about 60,000 unchurched sites where we could use volunteers of all skill levels to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ.”
Begaye said the volunteers can be businessmen or women, school teachers or plumbers who can move into an area and invest several years of their lives. The volunteers can have an affinity to live in a particular area of the country or can just be available to the needs of the moment.
NAMB’s role is that of a matchmaker — connecting volunteers with the needs on the field and helping churches locate individuals who have the desire to relocate to their area.
“If someone wants a shorter term of commitment, we can use them for a week or two in a Vacation Bible School setting or to help staff a revival team,” Begaye said. “Or they can be part of a team doing public service work in an effort to raise visibility among locals who know nothing of Southern Baptists.
“For example, a volunteer could help paint or fix up homes for low-income residents, and while performing the tasks could casually strike up a conversation about the new church that had just been established in the community. The layperson could even offer to provide transportation for the prospect.
“We need individuals who can do a variety of things that might lead to a new church start. No level of involvement is too small,” Begaye emphasized.
A volunteer could help establish an English-as-a-Second-Language ministry in a multihousing community or lay the foundation for an after-school tutoring program for children needing help with classwork.
Or a volunteer could pray for a church start in Chicago and commit to pray for the residents of the community — even if the volunteer lives in San Diego or Boston.
“Prayer is an important part of all that we do,” Begaye said. “Who knows what could be accomplished by a Christian praying daily for the next year for an unchurched community?
“This is an entirely new way of looking at involving volunteers in a church planting ministry. Rather than going to an established church to help them with their outreach, an activity that is still needed, we are calling on volunteers who want to go to the next level in their commitment — to go to a totally unchurched community and be on the ground floor of launching a new work for Christ.”
Another opportunity for lay involvement goes beyond the traditional one-time mission trip to a particular site. A single Christian or even a church could adopt an unchurched community and commit to a multiyear strategy to impact that area with the Gospel. At first that might be limited to praying for the community, but as resources become available it could grow to include several mission trips in the next few years.
As such efforts are embraced by the church, more volunteers — including friends and family from other churches — could be enlisted to support the work. Lifelong friendships could develop on both the receiving and giving ends to provide a balanced relationship. Down the road the new church start could even send mission or revival teams to the host church’s community.
“This could easily grow into a two-way street for bringing North America to Christ,” Begaye reflected.
Mike and Roxy Roth are one such example. They were members of Grace Baptist Church in Deer Trail, Colo., when God called them to help start a church. In 2000, Mike, a lineman for an electrical power company, and Roxy moved to a lake setting in Nebraska to help start a church on the lake.
The beauty of this approach is that the lay volunteer does not have to be ordained, does not need seminary training and does not have to be on a church staff. He or she only has to be called of God and be faithful to respond to that call.
The volunteer could be a college student, approaching mid-life or retired. There are no restrictions on qualifications.
“We are looking for individuals who God is calling to impact an unchurched area and establish a beachhead for the Gospel,” Begaye said.
For more information Begaye can be contacted at (770) 410-6236 or at [email protected].
This article originally appeared in the spring/summer 2003 issue On Site magazine, an adult volunteer mobilization publication of the North American Mission Board. It is used with permission. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SEEKING THE CALLED.